Safaa K. Merzah, Nawal F. Abbas


Most of readers’ comprehension of verbal deception descends from social psychology and cognitive perspectives, particularly from political, advertising and forensic discourse. One discoursal domain that has been hitherto largely neglected is literary discourse, particularly crime fiction. To date, this article is the first study that presents some of the many strategies which a psychopathic and non-psychopathic character/first-person narrator use to invite deception in readers and amongst characters from a pragma-stylistic perspective. This study focuses on the deceptive strategies exploited in Flynn’s popular American novel Gone Girl (2012) which is situated within the hybrid sub-genre of crime fiction: psychological thriller/whodunit. The study of the stylistic idiosyncrasies of the couple antagonists, Amy and Nick, is carried out by an eclectic pragmatic approach to expose their deceptive strategies for the fulfilment of their egoistic and/or selfish ends. The research undertaken will develop an eclectic conceptual framework which comprises the deceptive principle, speech act theory, (im)politeness, presupposition, certain rhetorical devices, and relevance theory, along with the stylistic effects achieved via the manipulation of such linguistic tools, to explore the two levels of discourse (viz., character-character level and narrator-reader level) proposed by Black (2006). More specifically, the present study is set for three main objectives: firstly, to explore the unreliable narrators’ deceptive strategies and compare the findings to the lower level of discourse, that is, character-character level. Secondly, to compare the deceptive strategies which occur on the pre- and during/post-dénouncement stage. Thirdly, investigate the language of gender differences. It has been evinced that Amy is a serial liar who employs a plethora of deceptive strategies whilst Nick is a deceiver who principally relies on indirect strategies. As for the deceptive strategies exploited on the two levels and stages are neither quantitively nor qualitatively mirror-symmetrical. It has also been found that the fashion via which Amy and Nick deceive exhibit linguistic gender differences—most of which challenge the observations on the language of women and men put forth by Lakoff (1973).


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unreliable narration, psychopathy, lying, deception, pragmatics, stylistics, sociolinguistics, cognitive principle, gender

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